Tweet Justice


Written by Caroline Doyle
17 Monday 17th May 2010

In the basement of Shoreditch's new bar-with-brains The Book Club on Wednesday night, Future Human provided the questions and some experts whilst we mulled over how the UK's legal system is struggling to keep up with the Twitter generation.
In the early days, according to author Robert Collins, the Internet functioned like the Wild West; it felt ungovernable, and the people on it, anonymous. Now the Internet is not a novelty, but a norm. The laws of the 'real world' are struggling in their attempts to regulate with this wild virtual landscape.

We are updated throughout the day on what our friends are doing, where and who with. Hangovers are now not only spent eating bacon sandwiches and feeling sorry for yourself, but de-tagging incriminating photos from the night before. We treat the internet as a private place, where we flirt, confess and vent, but it is not private, and is becoming ever more open. How are we protected from what others might say about us on the Internet, where potentially our little snafus goes viral? For public figures, whose reputation is their profession, what could be a red-faced day at work for us, could mean the loss of thousands of pounds for them. Just ask Peaches Geldof, who lost a modeling contract after some pictures of her naked fun started floating around cyber space.

Tweet Justice addressed how the information age means that what protected privacy and reputation in the past, just doesn't cut it anymore. But is this necessarily a bad thing? The Internet is user generated, and free speech is inbuilt, but do those who take advantage of it always deserve anonymity?

Many secret bloggers have recently been 'outted' by newspapers, including Zoe Margolis who blogged under the guise of Girl With a One Track Mind. In publicising her identity, she was subjected to much character defamation, and though she managed to carve a career out of the fallout, some, have lost money, jobs and personal relationships after similar unveilings. It is interesting that newspapers, who work so hard to protect their own sources, should take such joy in 'outting' anonymous bloggers.

Even for those of us without internet aliases, if we take part in the social networking that is rapidly becoming not just part of our personal, but also professional lives, are we sacrificing our right to privacy and a certain amount of anonymity? Even if you removed yourself from your social network accounts, there would still be pictures of you on the Internet, comments about you, which you can do little to change.

What Tweet Justice highlighted was the need to discuss the moral complexities of the Internet age, which I, as I'm sure many, had never given much thought before. The fact that all your purchases, searches, communications and even locations are being stored forever, the adverts tailored just to you and the potentially discriminatory information that is available about you – it's enough to make you want to take a hammer to your modernity and go native in a shack in the wilderness.

As frightening as the revelations were, the discussion was very interesting and addressed important questions about our changing relationship and responsibilities to the World Wide Web. So if you like to think whilst you drink, I would recommend attending a future Future Human event, details of which can be found on their website. But if you're now too scared to surf, I'm sure if you wrote them a nice letter they could probably send you the information too.

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